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Jia Zhangke’s STILL LIFE examines displaced families caused by the construction of the Three Gorges Dam

STILL LIFE (SANXIA HAOREN) (Jia Zhangke, 2006)
IFC Center
323 Sixth Ave. at West Third St.
Thursday, December 20, 9:00
Series runs through December 20

Sixth Generation Chinese film director Jia Zhangke won the Golden Lion for Best Film at the Venice Film Festival for Still Life, his beautiful, elegiac, documentary-like examination of displaced family. Jia sets his film around the ongoing, controversial Three Gorges Dam project, which has forced millions of residents from their homes. Han Sanming, a miner from Shanxi, arrives in the former town of Fengjie, looking for the daughter he hasn’t seen in sixteen years, since she was a baby. Meanwhile, a young nurse, Shen Hong, is seeking out her husband, a construction executive whom she hasn’t heard from in two years. Using nonprofessional actors, Jia (Platform, The World) tells their heartbreaking stories virtually in slow motion, with many scenes driven by Han’s tired eyes, featuring little or no dialogue. He gets a job helping tear down buildings, in direct contrast to his desire to rebuild his relationship with his long-lost family. Jia’s gentle camera reveals how China, in its quest for modernization and financial power, has left behind so many of its people, the heart and soul of the land that has literally been torn out from under them. A small gem, Still Life is screening December 20 at 9:00 in a new 35mm print as part of the IFC Center series “Road Movies: Directed and Selected by Walter Salles,” in conjunction with the December 21 theatrical release of Salles’s adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road.

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